At New York, Gabriel Debenedetti writes about American Bridge, America Rising, and the changing world of oppo:
In the old days, the group’s trackers — junior staffers with cameras who follow Republicans around, waiting for a gaffe — were instructed to identify themselves as American Bridge operatives when they got to an event, and they were told to remain passive, not asking questions or trying to trick their targets. Rule eliminated. (It took just until May 2017 for the group to post unflattering footage of a Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate grabbing a tracker’s camera and then angrily pushing him away.) In the pre-Trump era, the group stopped short of snooping for dirt beyond publicly available documents or clips. The no-digging-and-no-working-the-phones-and-no-sniffing-around-in-person guideline is now gone, fully thrown out the window by the time American Bridge dispatched staff to Alabama to look into Roy Moore last winter. And, after consulting local campaign finance and consent laws, Brock convinced some of his funders to set up a small fund that trackers can now tap into if they want to pay their way into GOP candidates’ private events where that’s legal. That move opened up a massive new stream of potentially damaging material for Republicans who think they’re speaking behind closed doors to friends and supporters. The tactic didn’t take long to pay off, either: it’s how the group caught Ed Gillespie, 2017’s Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, calling the northern part of his state “enemy territory” in a private fundraiser last September.
American Bridge’s bet is that most of the old laws of politics remain intact, but that it takes a new kind of alert system to call out violations. At a time that Missouri’s Republican governor is hanging onto his seat while he fights a handful of scandalous charges — including an explicit accusation of sexual assault — a Montana GOP congressman was elected one day after body-slamming a reporter (and is now favored for reelection), and, of course, Trump remains firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, it’s not clear that politicians around the country are so confident in the old rules’ stability.